Paris: Former world number one Victoria Azarenka said on Monday that any change in seeding rules for returning mothers at Grand Slam tournaments would have to be for all players and not just Serena Williams.
Roland Garros organisers have come under fire for not seeding 23-time major champion Williams for the French Open, as the American makes her Grand Slam comeback after stepping away from the Tour in February 2017 to have her first child.
Azarenka herself missed much of last season after giving birth and becoming embroiled in a custody battle and was not seeded on her return at Wimbledon.
"We are talking about one individual being seeded. So if we talk about the rule, then the rule should be for everybody," said the Belarusian after her shock first-round defeat by Katerina Siniakova at Roland Garros.
"This conversation was not on the table last year when I was coming back and I was not seeded in Wimbledon.
"And Wimbledon has the choice to do that. And this year they are going to be seeding Serena
"So if we talk in terms of rule, the rule has to be for everybody."
Azarenka, good friends with Serena, insisted the issue had been blown out of proportion, but said that the rules should be changed to distinguish between breaks for injury and due to pregnancy.
"I think this chaos that's been created is not that Serena is upset that she's not seeded. It's more outside noise and making a big story out of that.
"But there are conversations about rules, and we are talking about at least first separating the injury and pregnancy, and I think that's really important."
Two-time Australian Open champion Azarenka played her first Grand Slam match since Wimbledon last July on Monday, but was stunned 7-5, 7-5 by Siniakova.
The Belarusian returned to tennis in June last year following the birth of her son Leo in 2016 but then put her career on hold again after a judge in California had ruled that her son Leo should not leave the state until custody was resolved.
The former world number one returned to Europe at this month’s Madrid Open, her first clay court tennis in two years. She is currently ranked 82 in the world.
“Even though I am doing good things in practice, I’m not able to transfer it to the match,” Azarenka told a post-match news conference.
Azarenka showed signs of a comeback after surrendering the first set, winning a fierce-hitting baseline exchange to go to 2-2. But she was unable to build momentum even as her Czech opponent lost her cool over a handful of disputed line calls.
“I’m pretty happy with the serve today. I just didn’t use the opportunities I created with the serve. The first shot was not aggressive and giving me that feeling of going forward,” she said.
The months-long custody fight over her son Leo has been a painful distraction for Azarenka. In an open letter last year, the 28-year-old, who won the Australian Open in 2012 and 2013, said no one should ever have to decide between a child and their career.
The 28-year-old was broken to love in the 12th games of each set to be dumped out by world number 57.
The two-time Australian Open champion has now won just two matches at Roland Garros in the last five years.
"Even though I'm doing good things in practice, I am not able to transfer it to the match," Azarenka added.
"So I really need to kind of take a look at what I can do better. Right now in the match it's not working."
Czech Siniakova moves on to a second-round match with Ukraine's Kateryna Kozlova, who knocked out defending champion Jelena Ostapenko on Sunday, in a part of the draw in which the only remaining seed is number 26 Barbora Strycova.
With inputs from agencies
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Updated Date: May 28, 2018 20:01:19 IST